Singapore cannot allow Covid-19-led downturn to erode human capital: Josephine Teo

SINGAPORE should not let the the downturn erode its human capital, and should instead enhance it so that the country can emerge stronger, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in Parliament on Thursday.

She said the government's plan to create nearly 100,000 job and training opportunities is an enormous challenge that the National Jobs Council (NJC) will have to work very hard at.

For comparison, Workforce Singapore and its partners, such as the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and the Monetary Authority of SIngapore placed 29,000 locals into jobs every year in the last three years, she said.

"Each of these involves painstaking work. In many cases, there are job and skills mismatches. In others, there are mismatches of wage expectations," she said.

In today's context, another significant mismatch is timing, as jobseekers will be hungry for work but employers will be hesitant to hire, she said.

However, she gave her assurance that the government will spare no effort to open up new pathways for jobseekers and guide them appropriately.

"But for matches to happen, I urge jobseekers to keep an open mind – they should stay open to pathways that they would not have considered previously. Give the employers a chance and give yourself a chance," Mrs Teo said.

She outlined plans to ramp up the capacity of career-conversion programmes to help jobseekers reskill for new roles as well as to open up traineeship pathways for recent graduates and mid-career jobseekers.

Referring to the NJC's first meeting on Wednesday, she said there was intense discussion about the potential for experienced mid-career executives to help in the transformation of businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

"This will supplement the resources of hard-pressed SMEs to build up their capabilities. More pathways of this type could this be win-win."

To help jobseekers find the most suitable pathways, she said the government will expand its ground presence. There are currently five career centres island-wide and partnerships with e2i, the social services offices, community development councils and self-help groups such as Mendaki.

To be closer to job seekers, the government plans to build up a presence in all 24 Housing Board towns through satellite career centres, she said.

Beyond these physical centres, she said the government has also significantly built up its digital presence and range of digital services on MyCareersFuture.sg

Despite the challenges, Mrs Teo cited three reasons to be hopeful:

First, Singapore has been investing heavily in its Continuing Education and Training (CET) infrastructure and SkillsFuture movement, and there is now a vibrant CET ecosystem that provides quality training to working adults.

Secondly, there are Industry Transformation Maps that provide a guide for each sector for future growth.

Thirdly, Singapore's tripartism allows the government, unions and employers to "row as one in unison towards the same destination", she said, adding that few other countries have this "extraordinary" advantage.

She said that while Covid-19 has unleashed a storm worldwide, it is also igniting unity, resilience, solidarity and fortitude in Singapore.